5 creative ways to get a system out of your head and onto paper

Creative ways to get a system out of your head: coloured pencilsIf you’re a one-person business, you probably have a whole load of systems in your head: quick ways of doing things, effective short-cuts, filing systems and more. But if you’re going to free yourself from doing everything yourself, the first step is to get things documented so other people can do them. If you find it a challenge writing down everything you do, here are some alternative ways of getting your best practice out of your head, so someone else can take over.

Talk it through as you do it

As you’re doing a task, record a commentary on what you’re doing and how. You can then transcribe it or have it done for you, to use as a basis for your instruction sheet. You can rework it as an aural tutorial if it’s appropriate, though it’s often best for it to be backed up by written instructions in some form.

Grab a pile of post-it notes or small cards

While you’re doing something, scribble down every step that you take on a different card. It means you have a starting point to expand your explanations, and you can play around with them to find the most helpful order. I like having two colours. On the first I write the step, and on the second I write any notes, such as the specific outcome of that step, where to find something, or any other instructions. You can then combine both bits of information into your instruction sheet.

Create a video tutorial

Use screen capture tools to capture what you’re doing on screen. If it’s purely for private use, you don’t need to worry about high production values. However, videos need to be clear and short, so someone can find what they want quickly and easily. If they’re over a minute, put a list of markers about what information appears at which point, so someone can find what they want quickly. If you’re experimenting, free software such as CamStudio for PC, or QuickTime (included in Mac OS X) should be all you need.

Build a set of slides

This is a perfect format for step-by-step tasks. Again, your slides don’t need to be particularly beautiful, just clear. You can embed screen shots or specific information. You can send them to people, embed them in a private web page or share them with Slideshare.

Try mind-mapping software

If you’re trying to work out a more complicated system, playing around with a mind map can help you create order out of apparent chaos. Try Freemind or Xmind to create documents you can then turn into lists of tasks or steps.

And the best thing about all these? Once you’ve got down the main steps, you can get a VA or other assistant to do much of the work turning it into the different formats.


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